Wasted Again

Talk not of wasted affection, affection never was wasted;
If it enrich not the heart of another, its waters, returning
Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill them full of refreshment;
That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain.

Evangeline – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My mom has vascular dementia, she often doesn’t know what day it is and can’t complete thoughts or sentences.

But her intellect remains formidable. We were talking the other day and she asked, apropos of nothing, “What do you know about Evangeline? Do you know why Longfellow wrote it?”

I had to admit the only reason I knew about Evangeline was because James Lee Burke frequently mentions her in his Dave Robicheaux crime fiction stories. [1]

After that conversation I stopped at the Peabody library in Columbia City [2] and checked out a Longfellow collection. I plowed through the dense, almost impenetrable to me, 19th century text and came across the gem that I quoted at the start of this post.

We’ve been talking a lot about fountains these days. Son Josh has done a jaw-dropping amount of genealogical research and relevant to this post our family name [3] can be rendered as “to the fountain.”

The words of a long dead poet, dredged up who knows why by the tangled synapses of my mom’s mind, through a good public library, to my son’s genealogical research.

These things flow by and through me. I’m a baffled conduit of wonder.

1. I didn’t admit that I thought Wordsworth wrote Evangeline. One of my great regrets in life was that I pursued a technical rather than a liberal arts education.

2. Public libraries are a treasure. I’m filled with hope every time after I visit one.

3. Zumbrun. Are you paying attention?

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Sounds Like Home

I’d planned to make broccoli beef tonight which we usually make with flank steak or something like that. But when I went to the freezer last night we were out of flank steak or sirloin or anything really appropriate.

So I grabbed a chuck roast [1] and slapped it in the refrigerator and decided I’d figure out how to make it work later[2].

Tonight rolled around, it’s 5pm and I’ve got a chunk of roast to get ready for supper. I considered slicing it paper thin and searing it and hoping for the best, but then I remembered my favorite cooking tool, the pressure cooker.

This isn’t one of the modern Instant Pots, this is an old school pressure cooker. You pour in some water, a chunk of meat, crank the heat and let it rattle away for 30 minutes or so and you make a tough old chuck roast meltingly tender.

More than anything else, it reminds me of home. My mom and my grandmothers used pressure cookers. To hear it rattling away on the stovetop and to smell the rich steam takes me home again when I was a little kid [3] and that sound and smell meant good things soon like beef and noodles.

Or good things like broccoli beef. We’re eating light these days, and beef and noodles served over mashed potatoes doesn’t exactly fit the bill.

So I sliced the chuck roast thin, trimming off all the fat and put it in the pressure cooker with garlic, ginger, soy sauce and water. Once it got up to steam I set the timer for 12 minutes and cut up a couple heads of broccoli, a green bell pepper, and some green onions.

Then after the beef came out of the pressure cooker I seared the beef in the wok, added the vegetables, then a sauce of soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, garlic, and scallions and et voila!

Broccoli Beef

Served on a bed of cauliflower rice, it’s delicious, light, and … tastes like home.

1. Yes, it bothers me to cook “Chuck”.
2. I’m a little hard-wired. The menu was done first, so the ingredients must conform to the menu. To adapt the menu, since it was done first, would be, well, wrong.
3. ” Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin’ by”

— End of the Innocence, by Don Henley

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Just Me, Just Running

I love to run. 9 miles this morning on one of my favorite routes down Chapine Road.

I’m training for a marathon this fall. I don’t know that I’ll get there, that these old feet, knees, and hips will stand up to the pounding.

But I just love to run. To go out this morning and spend an hour and 45 minutes running was pure pleasure. Not that it didn’t hurt. My feet and back were aching during the run, and my quads are going to tell me about it tomorrow.

While running I lose myself in my thoughts, just drift along ruminating on old memories, or thinking about what might happen next, or just enjoying the moment, feeling my breath cycling oxygen in and co2 out, my heart beating strong, all fueling my legs to keep moving on.

Running a marathon will be nice, but just running makes me happy.

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Floored

The rain continues to fall, almost 6 inches in the last 10 days, so being it’s too wet to plow, and I can’t dance, I headed out to Washington DC this weekend to help eldest son Josh refinish the floors in his new condo. Josh isn’t moving in until in May, so it was the perfect time to get it done.

I drove out on Friday and wanted to start at 6am on Saturday when Home Depot opened and we could get the sanders. But I hadn’t considered practicalities of city life and neighbors both adjoining and underneath. So we started at 9am.

Here’s the kitchen after the first pass sanding. You can see how aged the old finish was. Josh thought it was probably the original finish, 24 years old.

Kitchen - First Pass
Kitchen – First Pass

That’s the edger we rented from Home Depot in the middle of the floor.

Josh is on the drum sander making the first pass in the living room with the 24 grit sanding drum.

Josh Sanding
Josh Sanding

You’ll notice the electric cord draped over his shoulder. By this point we’d managed to sand both of the sander electrical cords and patched them with tape.

This is the bedroom after the 1st pass sanding.

Bedroom Floor
Bedroom Floor

Just gorgeous! The old finish was worn and scratched and stained, but the wood underneath is beautiful.

Looking down the steps after the first sanding pass.

Steps
Steps

We sanded them with the edger. It doesn’t look like there’s much it missed, but there’s hours and hours of hand sanding left there.

Hand Sanding
Hand Sanding

Josh is working on the spots the edger wouldn’t reach with my pad and mouse sander. A few minutes of hand sanding gave you a deep appreciation of the contractor quality sanders we’d rented from Home Depot.

Here’s the living room floor after the final sanding. We did 3 sanding passes with finer grit drums on each pass.

Living Room
Living Room

There’s still lots of dust to clean up. We vacuumed it, wiped it all down with rags soaked in paint thinner, wiped it with a swiffer and then a tac rag. And then did it all again.

The jugs of finish all contained dire warnings about planning your application so you have an exit. We took heed.

Exit
Exit

Out the Door
Out the Door

Josh is holding the door open with his foot so I can do the last little bit of the first coat.

After the first coat of a water-based polyurethane it’s starting to look good.

First Coat
First Coat

With the second coat we’re really starting to get some depth and shine.

Second Coat
Second Coat

Second Coat
Second Coat

If you’re from around here[1] you’ll recognize I have a Leatherman in that holder on my belt. I quickly realized that, unlike around here, a Leatherman is not a common fashion accessory in Washington DC.

The last coat is going on here. I managed to step in the part Josh had brushed in along the edges, so I took my shoes off and finished the rest barefoot. You can see that 3rd coat is really getting a rich, deep gloss.

Almost Done
Almost Done

Home Depot[2], we couldn’t have done it without you!

Our Favorite Store
Our Favorite Store


1. Hillbilly Heaven.

2. Zumbrun.net as always is totally commercial-free. We received no consideration from Home Depot for this post.

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It’s a Winter Wonderland!

Owen Rushing for the House
Owen is racing up the sidewalk, carrying one of the bones from his seemingly endless cache of them.
Owen the Snow Dog
Owen loves to run through the snow and plow it with his nose. This is the inevitable result.
Almost Home
With considerably less enthusiasm than Owen, Debbie makes her way up Skunk Hill to shelter.
It's a Dog's Life
Spenser, on the other hand, knows how to deal with winter.

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Pure Michigan

Despite having heard the “Pure Michigan” ads on the radio every 5 minutes all spring long until I was ready to shriek, Debbie and I took a 3 day jaunt to Michigan before we get busy this fall.

After dropping the Wonder Dogs, Spenser and Owen, off at the Bow Wow Bed & Breakfast we headed for Grand Rapids and the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park where they were having a special Chihuly exhibit.

I’m no fan of Meijer stores, and botanical gardens are just ok to me. I do like Chihuly though. So I had pretty low expectations for this part of the trip. Was I ever wrong, it was magnificent! Ol’ Fred Meijer gave quite a gift to the city of Grand Rapids.

The gardens have lots of plants and stuff, as you might expect. Debbie could tell you what they were, they all looked green and leafy to me. There are permanent sculptures displayed throughout the gardens. A lot of it is the kind of modern art that you look at and say, “huh.” And then conclude either you or the sculptor must be a dummy. But most of it is very beautiful, and the work that went into creating the settings and vistas is impressive. Even the American Horse, which looks ridiculous in this picture, and also looks ridiculous in person from that angle, is breathtaking when you see it from a distance in its grass amphitheater.

The Chihuly sculptures were impressive as expected. You can see a lot of them in the slideshow on Chihuly’s site.

We spent that night in Saugatuck at the River Suites. It’s a deli with two rooms on the top floor. Much nicer (and more expensive) than it sounds, we had a deck overlooking the Kalamazoo River. Since it was part of the deli we just loaded up with bread and cheese and other goodies from the deli and sat on our deck and had our supper watching the sun go down over the river.

The next day we headed for nearby Fennville to taste wine at the Fenn Valley vineyard and to check out a restaurant called Salt of the Earth in Fennville.

The winery had tasty white wines (the reds, not so much) and was enlivened by a busload of very happy Amway representatives. The Salt of the Earth was something else. Uber-cool decor and food in the heart of Fennville, which is just a crossroads in Michigan orchard country. If you ever find yourself in the Saugatuck area it’s definitely worth the side trip.

From there we headed to Michigan City, which is not in Michigan of course. My Mom had gotten us a gift certificate to a restaurant called Kelly’s Table. It’s located right on the I-94 and US 20 exit. Surprisingly, that interchange is wooded and it sits back a long lane in 30 acres of woods.

Dinner at Kelly’s Table was exceptional. They buy as locally as they can, and serve seasonal dishes. I had a pork loin with a cherry barbecue sauce and Debbie had lamb with a pesto sauce. Appetizers were a chicken liver pate and meatballs with a tomato safforn sauce. Desserts were pots du creme and a chocolate chess pie. All of it was flawlessly prepared and very tasty. Somewhat unusually, the portions were reasonably sized, for example my pork loin was perhaps a 6 ounce cut. Generous, but not the ridiculously sized portion you often get. Prices were reasonable and it was just everything you hope a restaurant could be.

From there it was time to head home. After a detour for road construction led us through the trackless wastes of northwestern Indiana, we were reunited with the wonder dogs and then greeted at home by a bushel and a half of tomatoes ready to be processed.

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Beach Books

We’re off to North Carolina to the beach next week so in preparation I went to the Allen County Public Library to stock up on books for the beach.

The list:

  • In Fed We Trust by David Wessel.  Recommended by son Josh so I could “understand what he writes about all day.”
  • The World Without Us by Alan Weisman.  Imagine the world without people.
  • A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby.   Hornsby’s a good writer, always worth a read.
  • The Great Gatsby.  You know who wrote it.  Son Josh is always quoting it at me, and it’s one of the many holes my reading of American Literature.
  • The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland.  You can’t go wrong with Coupland.
  • The Dead Hand by David Hoffman.  Pulitzer Prize winning story about the Cold War.  The success of this book is due in part to Josh Zumbrun, see page 486.
  • A Stained White Radiance by James Lee Burke.  An early Robicheaux novel that I haven’t read.
  • The Blue Horse by Rick Bass.  I have no idea what this is.  It was on the new fiction shelf and had a cool cover.  That’s much the same method I use to pick wine.

That’s it.  I know, I know.  No way that’s going to last me a week.  I’ll pull a few books off the shelves here at home that I’m perpetually trying to finish.  Most notably:

  • Le Ton Beau de Marot and I am a Strange Loop both by Douglas Hofstadter.  I’ve been bogged down about halfway through both of these for years.  This is the year I’ll finish them!

I also picked up a few CD’s to supplement our collection for the drive.

  • Les Miserables, the original Broadway cast.  If the soundtrack is as long as the play, that’ll be all we need.  It’s only a 14 hour drive.
  • Mamma Mia! Original cast.    Need some cheery fluff after suffering through Les Miz.
  • Best of Johnny Lee Hooker.    Debbie likes the blues.  I needed a sop to throw to her, because she’s really gonna hate:
  • Walking Distance, Robert Earl Keen.  Real country music, like James Hiatt and Lyle Lovett.  Speaking of which…
  • Pontiac, Lyle Lovett.

That’s a start.  I’m still concerned it’s not enough.  I may need a big fat brainless blockbuster novel to round it out.

—-

A later revision.

Debbie gave me two books for Father’s Day to round out my collection for the trip.  The consummate librarian, she picked better books for me than I did for myself:

  • The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson.  What’s not to like about the memoirs of a befuddled, beer-swilling, travel writer?  Seriously, Bryson is constantly amusing, almost as amusing as:
  • I’ll Mature When I’m Dead by Dave Barry.  And there’s no one funnier than Dave Barry, so the list ends here.

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This Time It’s Personal, Part 2

We tried to plant today, but it was too wet.  Not so wet that we’re throwing mud everywhere,  but…, well, I don’t want to get bogged down in a discussion of the finer details of no-till seeding, that’s not the point here.

Too wet to plant, can’t dance,  so we spent the day doing odds and ends.  Mowing side ditches, cleaning up machinery.  Mid-afternoon a lady showed up and bought two bales of straw, so with 4 bucks in our pockets we did what any good Americans would do.  We headed to town to spend it.

Town in this case is Merriam, Indiana.  The intersection of highways 9 & 33.  A gas station, a bar, and a, er, well, umm, that’s it.  We hit the gas station for a couple of fountain pops.

As Lana, I, and the wonder dogs Spenser and Owen pulled in we noticed it was getting stormy looking in the west.  The last thing we need now is more rain.  We also noticed there was a guy standing at the highway intersection with a cardboard sign and a jar, looking for cash.

When Lana got back with fountain pops I said, “we need all the karma we can get.”  I grabbed all the ones I had in my wallet (and I had a big stack of Washington’s, bucko) and we circled around and gave them to the guy.

We went home, closed the barn up, and looked to the sky for tomorrow.  And the skies were clear and bright.

I don’t really believe it’s personal.  I don’t think God, Allah, my karma, whatever, contributed to this.  I’m just saying the skies were now clear, the ground is looking dry, and tomorrow we’ll  be rolling.

Because I handed 8 bucks to a stranger on the corner?  No, that’s just absurd.

Isn’t it?

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Cerulean Beer Tasting

On April Fool’s Day we went with friends Jeff and Deena to a beer and pub food tasting at Cerulean. It was a sunny warm day, a perfect day to sit with friends along the canal in Winona Lake, watch the sun go down, and enjoy some great beer and food.

There were about 30 people there, and we were the oldest by at least 20 years. The young and hip were tweeting it all during meal. Ol’ grandpa is doing it old school, blogging it 3 days later.

They started us off with a beer made by a local homebrewer (that had to break all sorts of Indiana’s ridiculous liquor laws) and then an aperitif beer. See the beer list if you’re interested in the details of each beer.

Having had a homebrew amuse-bouche and then the Hennepin aperitif, I was definitely ready for some food. First up on the food was Cerulean’s take on fish and chips; skate, breaded and fried, with blue potato chips.  The enormous portion was light and tasty.

Next up was roast chicken, basted with honey and saffron to go with the Midas Touch.   It was splendid and the touch of sweetness from the honey went nicely with the beer.    If half a chicken wasn’t enough, there was a ramekin  of incredibly rich macaroni and cheese for a side dish.

The next beer was a stout and they served that with two small hamburgers.  One was a traditional pork and beef burger on a grilled bun with tomatoes and ketchup-like sauce (I forget exactly what it was, we were deep into the beer at this point.)  The other burger was on grilled sandwich bread and was topped with a hard-fried egg and crispy onion rings.  It had a pesto sauce on the side.

The meal rolled inexorably on to dessert.  The beer(s) were Framboise and Double Chocolate Stout.  You mixed it them together to get the blend of raspberry and chocolate that you liked.  The dessert was a chocolate banana cake.

We’ve been to Cerulean several times for meals and have always been impressed. This was our first time for a tasting and it didn’t disappoint.

Click below to see the beer list:

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